It was hardly a shocker when Adele dominated last year's Grammy Awards.
Albums like "21" don't come around all that often. For proof, consider that it was the top-selling album in the U.S. for both 2011 and 2012. The last time an album topped the year-end sales charts in consecutive years was Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in 1983 and 1984. The only other album to do that, at least since Billboard began publishing year-end sales totals in 1956, was the "West Side Story" soundtrack in 1962 and 1963.
But there's no "21" in the mix for this year's Grammys, and it's hard to imagine any artist running away with the ceremony on Sunday in Los Angeles.
There are, however, some really intriguing matchups in the four so-called big "general field" categories (where artists from different genres compete for the same award). And there doesn't appear to be any clear-cut favorite in the mix for album of the year, song of the year, record of the year or best new artist.
Nonetheless, we are once again peering into our crystal ball, despite the fact that it has provided only iffy results over the years, to try to predict who will win the big Grammy Awards. Here goes.
Album of the Year
Nominees: "El Camino" the Black Keys; "Some Nights," fun.; "Babel," Mumford & Sons; "Channel Orange," Frank Ocean; "Blunderbuss," Jack White.
The breakdown: The list is more notable for what's missing. Grammy voters ignored such longtime favorites as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, who released fine records in 2012, as well as hip-hop in its entirety. The latter is truly tragic, but hardly surprising, given Grammy's track record of ignoring hip-hop in the top four categories. But it's inexcusable this year, given how many great records hip-hop produced in 2012.
The result is a rather weak field, except for Frank Ocean's terrific "Channel Orange." Yet, I'm afraid that Ocean's soulful epic is too adventurous for these voters, even in this new Grammy era. White is the most-established artist in the mix, but "Blunderbuss" is the worst offering in his overall catalog. If Grammy voters actually listened to "Blunderbuss" there's no way it should win.
The other three nominees seem like more likely options, although each is flawed. Recognizing the Black Keys now seems a tad late, since 2010's "Brothers" was superior to last year's "El Camino." The pop juggernaut known as fun. feels worthy -- at least in 2013 -- but there's a good chance that the band could end up being a flash in the pan. Then there's Mumford & Sons, which seems well on its way to becoming this generation's Dave Matthews Band. The combination of hipster appeal and massive commercial success might prove too great to pass up for voters, even though "Babel" isn't nearly as good as Mumford's first album.
Record of the Year
Nominees: "Lonely Boy," the Black Keys; "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," Kelly Clarkson; "We Are Young," fun., featuring Janelle Monáe; "Somebody That I Used to Know," Gotye, featuring Kimbra; "Thinkin Bout You," Frank Ocean; "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Taylor Swift.
Breakdown: The Ocean and Keys cuts are solid selections, but they'll be crushed by the other three blockbusters in the mix. Let's also eliminate "Somebody That I Used to Know," in the hopes that even Grammy voters have grown tired of hearing that song by now.
Swift is a threat at any awards show, yet perhaps voters are tipping their hand by nominating "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" for record of the year (which goes to the artist) but not song of the year (a songwriter's award). That could mean voters are never ever going to anoint Swift's ditty as the single of the year.
It's a real pick 'em between the remaining two cuts, both of which qualify as first-tier pop anthems. Clarkson is a Grammy favorite, but this just feels like fun.'s year -- at least in this category.
Prediction: "We Are Young"
Song of the Year
Nominees: "The A Team," Ed Sheeran songwriter and performer; "Adorn," Miguel Pimentel songwriter and performer; "Call Me Maybe," Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen and Josh Ramsay songwriters, Jepsen performer; "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," Jorgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin and Ali Tamposi songwriters, Kelly Clarkson performer; "We are Young," Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost and Nate Ruess songwriters, fun. with Janelle Monáe performers.
Breakdown: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" is an all-time earworm -- one of the catchiest songs of the last 10 years. It is the most deserving of all the nominated tracks, if, indeed, the goal is to recognize well-crafted songwriting. The fact that it is nominated for best song, but not best record, is a slap in the face to Jepsen, who did everything that could've been asked with her performance on the tune. Yet, it's also a sign that voters might not be fully behind this piece of perfect pop. So, reluctantly, we'll zap "Call Me Maybe" from the running.
The Miguel and Sheeran cuts seem like pretenders to the throne, so it once again comes down to a battle between the Clarkson and fun. numbers. Both are fine choices, but one clearly feels more timeless than the other.
Prediction: "We Are Young."
Best New Artist
Nominees: Alabama Shakes, fun., Hunter Hayes, the Lumineers, Frank Ocean.
Breakdown: This is the strongest field of any of the four major categories. The Lumineers, Hayes and, especially, Alabama Shakes are all worthy nominees. Still, it's hard to imagine this being anything other than a two-headed race between Ocean and fun. Voters have basically said as much through nominating both acts in multiple general field categories.
The favorite has to be fun., given all that it accomplished in 2012. But is anyone truly convinced that fun. will still be relevant in five years? On the other side of the coin is Ocean, who made one of the year's most striking artistic statements with "Channel Orange." It's hard to believe that fun. will get better with age, while Ocean seems to have limitless potential.
Prediction: Frank Ocean
Best of the rest
Best pop vocal album: Look for fun. to win in a landslide for "Some Nights."
Unless: Grammy voters try to impress hipsters by picking Florence + the Machine's "Ceremonials."
Rap album: Voters will momentarily realize that Nas' "Life Is Good" isn't just the best hip-hop album of last year -- it's the best album of 2012, period.
Unless: The Academy decides to reward Drake's commercial blockbuster "Take Care."
Country album: Miranda Lambert's "Four the Record," with its four Top 40 country singles, is the obvious choice.
Unless: The street cred that would come with honoring Jamey Johnson's "Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran" proves irresistible.
Rock album: The Black Keys take home the trophy for "El Camino" -- consider it a consolation prize for not winning in the overall album of the year category.
Unless: Bruce Springsteen busts up the Black Keys' party with his "Wrecking Ball."
Alternative music album: Gotye's "Making Mirrors" trumps a weak field.
Unless: Voters have a sense of humor and want to hear the person at the podium try to recite the name of say Fiona Apple's album, "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes will Ever Do."
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